2 min

The reality of realness

It’s everywhere.

Used, abused, hashtagged and more.


Please stop. Just stop.

You see, at first it was quaint, cute even. A flashback to its pop-cultural and referential roots, younger queers and queens discovering the cachet of the term, elegantly revisiting and elevating the term that so many people discovered thanks to Paris Is Burning. But soon it just got out of control. People were using it without knowing its roots, throwing it about like it was just another catch phrase. This isn’t “fetch,” people — this term has some history to it. Not just some boring instamatic pop-culture background.

To all of you who drop the term blithely, let me educate you on the reality of the term “realness.”

Get it?

"Realness” is a term used as an appropriation, a fuck you to a society that says you can not be real due to your social/racial/economic/sexual standing. Now, I understand that the use of a term can change and develop. This is how language works; semantics meets Darwinism. But to use the term without understanding or even acknowledging its history denigrates where it comes from.

I saw a great discussion/post about it on Tumblr. It reads:

  • The Original Definition: The ability to blend. The
    skill of a homosexual, usually black or Latino, to be able to walk the
    streets without the assumption of being gay. Made popular from the
    documentary film Paris Is Burning in 1991 as a popular category of a
    Ballroom Scene. ie: “Schoolboy Realness” having the look of a teenage
    boy who would be able to go to school without being harassed.
  • This New Definition:
    A term used to make any adjective a noun. Overdone by the popular Logo
    reality tv show RuPaul’s Drag Race by clueless white queens. ie: “I’m
    serving you some Trashcan Primadonna Cleopatra Judy Garland Realness"
    which is a phrase that literally makes no sense.

To the person who posted this, I bow before you. I would argue that the contestants were probably asked by the producers to use the term as some sort of jingo-lingo-esque bullshit.

But to the rest of you who don’t have producers leaning in your ear asking you to say shit: Learn it. And learn it well.

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